September is Suicide Prevention Month
September is Suicide Prevention Month
PHOENIX – Preventing suicide is a top priority all year for the Arizona National Guard; a priority that get added emphasis in September during Suicide Prevention Month.
Members of the Arizona Army and Air National Guard often serve dual roles in their communities – civilian employee and military service member. This creates challenges, from balancing jobs and families with monthly drill weekends, to deploying wherever they are called.
Senior officials say the Arizona National Guard’s goal is to inform, motivate and support Soldiers and Airmen as they overcome these challenges and make healthy decisions for themselves, their families and their units.
“The National Guard has a unique challenge in that our service members are not centrally located and are spread throughout the state,” said Christine Sortino, suicide prevention program manager for Arizona’s Soldier Support Division. “We strive to provide the training, tools, and resources for members and their families to self care the stresses of life before they have a negative effect on that person.”
Guard members are trained periodically to intervene if they notice specific changes in behavior in a battle buddy or wingman. Through the Ask, Care, Escort, or ACE, program they are empowered to ask direct questions if they suspect someone is contemplating suicide, care for the person by listening and keeping calm, and escort the member to the appropriate medical clinic or professional care provider.
In addition to ACE, the Army and Air National Guard deployed a new and modern resiliency resource – Ready54.
Ready54 promotes social, spiritual, mental and physical fitness to Air and Army Guard members and their families in all 50 states, three territories and the District of Columbia. It is modeled after Comprehensive Airman Fitness and Comprehensive Soldier & Family Fitness programs.
Ready54 can be accessed online at ready54.org or on a new downloadable app to your mobile device. From the site the system can narrow down resources to a user’s specific location to provide immediate assistance.
“Incorporating families and all members of the Arizona National Guard together with the resources they need is the key to our suicide prevention efforts,” said Army Staff Sgt. Erika Furgal, suicide prevention program manager. “You cannot plan when you, or someone you know, may need assistance, but we want you to know where to find that help if the need arises.”
According to experts, there are warning signs and risk factors to look for that will help identify if someone needs help. These include talking about suicide or harming one’s self, withdrawal from friends or activities, experiencing financial difficulties or loss of a job, relationship problems with a significant other, or substance abuse.
Furgal also addressed the challenges for a Soldier or Airmen to ask for help. “There is a stigma that surrounds the act of reaching out for help,” said Furgal. Service members are trained to be strong, but there is great strength in knowing when you need help and seeking it out.”
To culminate Suicide Prevention Month the Soldier Support Division invites Guard members to participate in “Ruck for Life,” a resiliency event scheduled for Sept. 30. The event at Papago Park Military Reservation will begin at Bushmaster Field at 6:30 a.m. and will end at the Allen Readiness Center.
Participants of the three-mile ruck march are encouraged to carry canned foods in their packs for donation to Arizona Family Programs at the end of the course. Service Members are asked to wear military physical training uniforms. Technicians, civilians, and contractors should wear the appropriate equivalent attire. Free T-shirts go to the first 250 participants.
Immediately following the ruck march the Soldier Support Division will host a comedy performance by Bernie McGrenahan titled “Happy Hour.” This show is open to all service members, civilian employees, veterans and their family members.
Service members in need of help for themselves or others are encouraged to contact any of the following resources:
· Suicide ideation or a suicide attempt is a medical emergency and care should be addressed immediately—call 911.
· Service members and military families in crisis should seek help immediately by contacting the Military Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 (press 1 for military) for 24/7 crisis support.
· The crisis line also provides an online chat at www.militarycrisisline.net and text service (838255).
· Service members or their families who would just like to talk to someone who has shared similar experiences should contact Vets4Warriors. They will be linked to a peer who is trained to assist them in overcoming obstacles. Call 855-838-8255; email [email protected]; or chat online atwww.vets4warriors.com.
· Airmen can seek help at wingmanproject.org and can also download the Wingman Project app to their mobile device.
· For Arizona National Guard resources, training or other assistance contact the Soldier Support Division at (602) 267-2114 or (602) 267-2117.
· Contact the Arizona National Guard Director of Psychological Heath at (602) 267-2797.